I decided to mess around with one of my flood images, turning it into an HDR shot without actually merging separate exposures. My working theory is that most camera sensors have sufficient bit depth all by themselves to produce some stunning HDR images. The problem is that existing HDR tools are setup around a 32-bit workflow. However, it is easy enough to compensate for this deficiency.
As you can see, it works. The process is simple, and I have to imagine it would work in any of the existing tone-mapping tools out there. I loaded the original RAW image in ACR, and tweaked the raw settings to produce a basic neutral image. I then created 8 versions of that image, only changing the Exposure Compensation in steps of one, from -4 to +3. The rest of the process is the same as with any HDR source material: Merge and tone map.
No doubt a true multi-exposure HDR shot is superior. However, this simulated method produces excellent results.